Airbnb hosts angered by Auckland Council's bed tax

Some Airbnb hosts say they are going to leave the online accommodation service as a result of a new Auckland Council tax.

The council has introduced a new targeted rate for online accommodation providers to bring them in line with hotels and motels.

Some say the new costs could spell the end of Auckland's Airbnb boom, with most of the providers at a heated meeting last night saying they would rather close down than meet the new costs.

Ray Pitch, who runs a small online accommodation business out of his Pakuranga home, said he was hit with an $11,000 rates bill this year.

He accepted that hosts should be taxed for their earnings but was angry at the lack of transparency in the council's approach.

He said it came as a shock when he found out he would need to pay for all his bookings since July 2017.

"People are now being put in a position where they cannot afford to carry on and they can't afford to stop, because if you stop you're still going to be charged on the basis of what you did last year," Mr Pitch said.

Airbnb is not able to provide the council with the details of its hosts.

'This is a new process'

Auckland Council policy advisor Aaron Matich said it was relying on people coming to them to let them know if they were running a business out of their homes.

Council officers were also able to identify some properties by going through the online accommodation websites, he said.

"This is a new process and we are relying on a lot of information coming from the providers and we would hope that people are going to be honest with us and provide us with the information that we need to be able to do this."

However, Mr Pitch said it was unfair that he should have to pay while others did not.

"The people that the council is aware of are the honest people who have made a declaration."

Mr Pitch has made a complaint to the Ombudsman over the way the council has handled the new tax.

'Not retrospective'

However, the council said it should be no surprise that the new tax - the Accommodation Provider Targeted Rate (APTR) - was being applied from July 2018, because all rates were set on the basis of what happens the previous year.

In a statement, the council said it was not a "retrospective" tax.

"If property owners can provide evidence that their property was not being advertised on online accommodation provider websites this financial year, they will not be charged the APTR for this financial year, or the previous financial year."

According to another Airbnb host, who wished to only use her first name Cat, the council was not taking into account the wider tourism implications of the rates, given how many people she believed would now sign off from Airbnb.

"For me, the amount of effort involved, no. I think I will pull," she said.

"A number of people I spoke to at the meeting last night said that they've got bookings right through to February, March next year and they said they were also intending to pull."

*Editor's note: This is a new version of an earlier story, which provides clarification.



Makers of Voltaren in Australia court facing misleading marketing claims

An Australian consumer watchdog has begun court proceedings against GlaxoSmithKline over allegations they falsely claimed a painkilling product was capable of targeting specific conditions.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleges the local divisions of UK firm GlaxoSmithKline advertised Voltaren Osteo Gel - which Novartis sold to Glaxo in 2016 - as particularly suitable for osteoarthritis sufferers, despite having the same dose of the same active ingredient as their Emulgel product.

The common ingredient - diclofenac diethylammonium gel - is useful for reducing localised pain and inflammation.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said Voltaren Osteo Gel has an identical formulation to Emulgel, meaning both products are equally effective in treating osteoarthritis as well as a range of other conditions.

"Consumers are likely to have been misled into purchasing Osteo Gel thinking that it is different to Emulgel and more effective for treating osteoarthritis conditions, when this is not the case," Mr Sims said in a statement.

"GSK engaged in a deliberate commercial strategy to differentiate the products in a way that was likely to mislead consumers."

The consumer watchdog found Voltaren Osteo Gel is often sold at a higher cost than Emulgel.

The ACCC has already taken action against the makers of Nurofen for similar conduct.

In December 2016, the Federal Court ordered Reckitt Benckiser to pay a $6 million penalty for claiming identically formulated ibuprofen products were able to treat particular types of pain.

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'I was just too scared to drive' - concerns raised by former driver about buses' safety after Ōhakune crash that claimed life of 11-year-old girl

A former shuttle driver, who worked for the company involved in the fatal Mt Ruapehu bus crash, says she felt unsafe driving its buses on the mountain six-years-ago.

Lucy Conway says her historic experiences resulted in her changing jobs.

"I was just too scared to drive those buses, I had to do a hill start without a handbrake.

"I went to my boss and burst into tears saying I can't do it anymore," Ms Conway said.

She says there were also problems with the exhaust brakes on some of the buses.

"When you’re driving down a hill like that it's nice to use your exhaust brakes so your foot brakes don't heat up".

Ms Conway says things may be different at Ruapehu Alpine Lifts now with new management in place.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts declined to comment saying matters relating to the investigation are not able to be discussed at this time.  

Yesterday, 1 NEWS found out the bus that crashed returning from Tūroa ski field on Saturday previously failed its Certificate of Fitness nine times.

The Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) bus rolled and crashed on Ōhakune Mountain Road just five minutes into the 17km journey. It was carrying 31 passengers.

A young girl died and other passengers were injured in Saturday’s crash. Source: Breakfast

Hannah Francis, 11, died in the crash and three people were seriously injured - a man and two women - and were airlifted from the site and remain in a stable condition at Waikato Hospital.

The Mitsubishi Fuso bus was imported from Japan in 2004 and failed its Certificate of Fitness nine times over the 14 years.

Different to a warrant of fitness - the certificate is a regular check for heavy vehicles to ensure they meet required safety standards. The inspection covers many aspects, including brake condition and operation.

The 24-year-old bus passed its most recent inspection at the end of May.

RAL Lifts chief executive Ross Copland said in a statement: "Our thoughts are with the passengers and families involved in the crash, as well as our driver.

"The crash is under investigation by the police and we will not be making any further comment at this stage."

Three investigations are underway into the cause of the weekend accident. Source: 1 NEWS